Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Robert J Scholnick


The antebellum American South was a site of continual human mobility and social fluidity. This cultivated a pattern of cultural exchange between black, indigenous, and white Southerners, especially in the Old Southwest, making the region a cultural borderland as well as a geographical one. This environment resulted in the creolization of many aspects of life in the region. to date, the literature of the Old South has yet to be studied in this context. This project traces the diffusion of African-American and Native American culture in white-authored Southern texts.;For instance, textual evidence in Old Southwestern Humor reveals a pattern of adaptations of folklore belonging to African-Americans. Johnson Jones Hooper's Some Adventures of Simon Suggs (1845) in particular reflects the presence of plots and motifs that originated in African trickster tales. Not all white Southern authors were menable to creolization, though. Novelists like William Gilmore Simms drew from but resisted the complete integration of non-white folklore in his historical romances. Native Americans and their culture frequently appear in his The Yemassee (1835), for instance, but always in a separate sphere.;The differences associated with the creolization of Old Southwestern Humor and the lack thereof in Southern historical romances reflect a distinction in Southern attitudes toward westward expansion and its social implications. In particular, the degree to which these authors did or did not resist creolization reflects their opinion about patterns of antebellum emigration and the backwoods social fluidity that contributed to the phenomenon of cultural exchange. Older conservatives like Simms, for instance, perceived the Old Southwest as a threat due to its rowdiness, materialism, and permeable social class. Novels by these authors displaced this milieu into the colonial past at an historical moment at which it became stabilized. The consequent elimination of Native Americans by whites in these texts marked a symbolic victory for order and stasis.;The texts of younger emigres to the South like Hooper reflect an alternate perspective. their embrace of the creative opportunities made possible by the social instability of the Old Southwest corresponds to their enthusiasm for the economic and social promise afforded by this recently settled region. In other words, the authors' openness to creolization mirrors a tolerance of the chaos born of mobility and a lack of structure. Suggs's antisocial exploits are adapted from African-American trickster tales whose characteristic disdain for authority and subversiveness contribute to Hooper's satire of traditional attitudes, including paternalism, which sought to limit this social flux.;These texts' competing viewpoints of the frontier allow scholars to get a sense of the diversity of social and political thought in the region---there was no monolithic Mind of the Old South. Additionally, acknowledging that these texts are a product of the multicultural environment reveals the contributions of Africans and Native Americans to Southern literature at its formative stage.



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